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Creating Faculty-wide curriculum renewal through rational curriculum planning, collaboration and complex thinking

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 12:00pm – 12:30pm parallel session



Room 6 – 303-B05 Sem



Dr Elisa Bone
The University of Sydney, Australia 

Professor Philip Poronnik
The University of Sydney, Australia

Professor Pauline Ross
The University of Sydney, Australia



Large-scale curriculum reviews are now common across Australian universities and increasingly require the alignment of learning outcomes to broader graduate attributes. Outcomes-based reviews can appear straightforward but are difficult to do in practice, especially in generalist degrees such as science and mathematics, where students’ future career pathways are uncertain and varied. We revised learning outcomes across course components (majors, streams and programs) within a diverse science faculty at a large Australian research-based university, We ranked the language of learning outcomes within 51 course components as ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, or ‘High’, corresponding to Bloom’s revised taxonomy levels I and II, III and IV and V and VI, respectively, and identified gaps in alignment, or inappropriate alignment, with the University’s new graduate qualities.

Pre-revision analyses showed fewer than 25% of all learning outcomes ranked ‘High’, and 41% of learning outcomes sets had alignment gaps, or inappropriate alignment, with the graduate qualities. We took a collaborative approach to revision, developing recommendation sheets for each course component and meeting with academic leaders to discuss how activities and assessment tasks within their major, stream or program promote student learning in different areas. After revision, we saw a 20% decrease in the proportion of learning outcomes ranked ‘Low’ per component, a 26% increase in the proportion of learning outcomes ranked ‘High’, and no gaps in alignment with the University’s graduate qualities.

Key to this improvement to the planned curriculum was our inclusion of detailed discussions with academics on the teaching activities within courses and creative learning processes occurring within students. We thus urge caution in using quantitative outcomes-based planning in isolation during curriculum reform. Our next steps are to revise and validate assessment plans to ensure that these alignments are constructive, and to evaluate whether our intended curriculum is delivered, and experienced by students, as planned.


Presentation topic

Tertiary – Governance and Management

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